I didn’t read Haldeman’s book on the subject of war which came out before this one. I’m not sure if I’d need to. This book posits a future dystopia where the superpower that the US has become is involved in relentless war against underpowered and undertrained rebel insurgents from other countries [sound familiar?]. The new twist is that much of the war games take place remotely. American soldiers sit in cages safely underground and manipulate “soldierboys” far away while they blow away the locals. There are groups of ten linked together via brain jacks that give the collective ewar team a group mind of a sort. There is a slight paranoiac undercurrent when word gets to the soldiers that many of the roles they are slated to play may be much more for the purpose of show than actual conflict. The rich folks have nano-technology that basically reduces everyone in the society to the leisure class. The poor still have nothing. Then the leisure elite figures out a way to maybe make it all change.
I am amazed that I have not managed to read Haldeman before. He is a skilled writer and plotsman and his interweaving of the subtle secondary plot of race relations in the semi-totalitarian future is graceful and masterful. The book has a tough intro 20 pages or so where you are sure it’s going to be one long shootemup, but perseverance is worthwhile and the book really delivers.